Veteran trumpeter Tim Hagans always displays an expressive tone, whether on burning postbop numbers or decelerated ballads, and he wastes no time in showing both extremes on the new Alone Together. Along with pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jochen Rückert, Hagans opens the disc with the blazing “See You Again” and subsequent, dreamy “Not Even the Rain,” both written by Copland. On each, the quartet, which recorded these tracks in Munich right after a European tour in late 2006, sounds intuitive and simpatico.
Hagans’ playing stands out despite the fact that he didn’t write any of the material. Copland’s “Over and Back” is a clinic in interplay, as Hagans and the pianist takes turns stating the melody while Gress provides a harmonic anchor. And Copland’s “Sweet Peach Tree” features a dramatic drum intro by Rückert, who’s in his early 30s, before some dizzying Hagans blasts and call-and-response solos among all four musicians. Rückert, who replaced Bill Stewart, is the group’s wild card, and he possesses some of the same propulsive qualities (if not quite the finesse) as his predecessor, who’s 10 years older.
The title track is the chestnut by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, but the best of three closing standards is Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight,” on which Hagans and Copland both appear to sing through their instruments while aided by the beautiful accompaniment of Gress and Rückert. Hagans’ previous work includes a couple of drum-and-bass-inspired tributes to Miles Davis with saxophonist Bob Belden, providing further proof that even the best straightahead jazz is primarily made by those willing to occasionally venture away from it.